Tide Football Has Tough Preparation

What does a team that is 6-0 and ranked second in the nation do as it prepares for its seventh game of the season? Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide has a tough week or preparation. That should surprise no one who has been paying attention.

After back-to-back Southeastern Conference road victories, Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first of three consecutive home games. Bama will host South Carolina at 6:45 p.m. CDT Saturday, a game that will be televised by ESPN.

"We ended a pretty tough work day out there," Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said following a two-hour workout in full gear. "The players have worked hard this week. This is a difficult preparation for us. I think you reach a point in the season where it gets more and more difficult for the players to grind through what they have to do, but we've certainly worked hard at that. "

Saban said the reason for the intensity is the importance of being able to "sustain consistency, especially in a league like ours where every team you play is a very good team."

South Carolina has been one of the positive surprise teams of the SEC this year with a 5-1 record, a four-point loss at Georgia the only blemish on the schedule. Bama is 3-0 in SEC games, the Gamecocks 2-1. South Carolina is ranked 22nd in the nation.

"South Carolina, certainly is a very good team and a difficult preparation for us with all the things they do on offense.," Saban said. "Steve Spurrier is a very, very good offensive coach. Ellis Johnson does a great job with the defense and they've got some very good defensive players. This is a very challenging game for us."

Spurrier is the gamed head coach of the Gamecocks. Johnson, a former Alabama assistant coach, runs the South Carolina defense.

The game is homecoming at Alabama.

Saban said he knows that homecoming is a great tradition, a time when those with a connection to The University want to return. "Hopefully our team will make their return a positive experience," he said.

Last week Alabama had a convincing 22-3 win over Ole Miss in Oxford, but there was frustration in that the offense made five trips into the Red Zone and had to settle for five Leigh Tiffin field goals. Twice Bama had first-and-goal inside the five-yard line and failed to score a touchdown.

Saban was asked if Red Zone offense had been a point of emphasis in practice this week.

"It's emphasized every week," Saban said. He said the failure of the offense wasn't that Ole Miss did something, but rather that Alabama failed to do the correct thing. "You jumped offsides, you dropped the snap from center, you didn't block the right guy, you made a mental error, you didn't do this, the quarterback threw the ball in the wrong place. Those are things we need to get corrected, but they are also things that are fixable and they are also things we have done correctly in the past."

Saban said no decision had been made about weakside linebacker. Starter Dont'a Hightower was lost for the season with a knee injury and Alabama has used different adjustments. This week the Tide gets sophomore Jerrell Harris back from ineligibility. Harris had been listed number two on the pre-season depth chart, but freshman Nico Johnson has been working at the position for the past few weeks. Harris was with the scout team during his six-game period of ineligibility.

"Both guys are doing a good job, both guys are working hard," Saban said. He noted that Harris might have a little rust insofar as assignments. "I think both guys have a role on the team, and we haven't made a decision as to who will do what in this game."

Saban was asked about South Carolina's "Spur," a hybrid safety-linebacker the Gamecocks use in their base 4-2-5 defense.

"Basically a lot of people play what you call a 4-2-5 system, which is sort of a quasi-nickel type of package," Saban said. "They have to have one guy who is sort of a -- I'm saying this in a complimentary way – kind of a hybrid guy who is part defensive back but part linebacker, who can sort of do both and who has some coverage skills but can play in the box because they'll make a 4-3 out of the same scheme and an over-under out of the same scheme and he becomes a part of the front seven as well as playing him as sort of the nickel back. Virginia Tech had a very similar type of player they used – I don't know what they called him, and I don't know what South Carolina calls their guy either – but it really is a good scheme in this day and age because it allows you to adjust to formations. There are so many formation variables. It does allow you to have – instead of having to go to nickel to adjust to some formations, you can just play with the guy you have in the game because he can play those formations that maybe a linebacker could not, or you might not feel comfortable with a linebacker."

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